Prime Minister Narendra Modi at opening ceremony of 36th National Games | ANI
Ahmedabad: Lauding Indian athletes for winning medals at various international events such as the Olympics in recent times, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said despite having the capability, sportspersons could not perform well in the past at the world stage because of nepotism and corruption.
He made the comments after declaring open the 36th National Games at a glittering ceremony at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad city's Motera area.
"The country's sportspersons were capable in the past too. This movement of winning medals (at international sporting events) could have started earlier too. But, instead of professionalism, there was nepotism and corruption in sports. We have cleaned the system and pumped in new confidence among the youths," said Modi in his address to a cheering crowd at the sprawling stadium.
He said when people around the world eagerly waited for popular and prestigious global sports events like the Olympics, such competitions were just subject of general knowledge in India for many years.
"But now, the mood and temperament of the nation has changed. Our sportspersons have continued a tradition of being the first and the best which started in 2014," said Modi, referring to the year when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power at the Centre after getting clear majority in the general elections and he became PM.
"Your victory in sports will pave the way for the country's success in other fields. The soft power of sports will significantly improve our country's image," the prime minister said in a message aimed at athletes.
According to the prime minister, Indian sportspersons used to take part in less than 100 sporting meets at various levels in the world eight years back, but this number has now gone up significantly.
"Today, they take part in 300 such international events. Similarly, as against 25 to 30 games our sportspersons used to participate eight years back, we now take part in nearly 40 different games. Both the medal tally as well as the country's reputation in global sporting arena are increasing," he said.
The PM maintained his government took good care of sportspersons during the difficult time of the coronavirus pandemic and provided them all the required resources and even sent them abroad for training.
"Thanks to schemes like TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme), our sportspersons are making new records and breaking their own records. India gave its best performance in the Tokyo Olympics (organised in July-August 2021)," he said.
Modi informed the audience that the sports budget of the central government has increased up to 70 per cent after he assumed office in 2014.
He urged athletes not to get disheartened after facing defeats and gave the mantra of "commitment and continuity" to win the competition.
On the occasion, Modi also inaugurated the new campus of the Swarnim Gujarat Sports University.
Gujarat is hosting the National Games for the first time. The 36th edition of the Games, being held from September 29 to October 12, will feature a total of 36 events with about 7,000 athletes from 28 states and 8 Union territories competing for medals. PTI